Saturday, January 31, 2004

Barlow girls

Via Green Fairy, I found myself on some US teen pro-abstinence website. Before you call the police I didn't stay too long, but long enough to find something to further my 24hr blogwar with Nick Barlow: this interesting definition of Barlow girls.

"So what are “Barlow Girls”? For one thing, they’re the main characters in a really cool song by Superchic[k]—but they’re also Becca, Alyssa, and Lauren, three really cool sisters Superchic[k] met in Wisconsin at their first concert. The girls, whose last name is (surprise!) Barlow, really impressed the band with their commitment to discovering God’s plan for their lives. But even though they dress modestly and have made a commitment to sexual purity (which, for them, includes not dating), guys still take notice of them—for the right reasons. As the song “Barlow Girls” says: “All the boys in the band want a valentine from a Barlow Girl/guys think they’re the bomb/cause they remind them of their mom.” "

Blogwar

Noting that Ryan of Beatnik Salad says he has been [edit] minded to ban Oliver Kamm from his comments box for 'muck-raking' makes me jealous that this blog is in no blogwars. Their petty, pointless yet satisfying nature is exactly what this blog stands for. Thus for today only I am going to ban Nick Barlow from making any comments, in protest at his success in the Guardian blog awards.

I also repeat a comment I left on Stephen Pollard's site, in response to an argument against sentimental nonsense (or was it 'common sense'?)

I've seen the argument said many times over the past week, and repeated here, that of course trust in the BBC should be higher than the government, because a government is political.

I do not understand this argument. Just because something is political doesn't mean it can't be trusted. Trust in, and support for a government are two distinct things.

In a week in which many have criticised the cynicism people hold in politicians, such articles, which basically say that in this country only 40% of the people can ever trust their government, are part of the problem.

On a more general point, when people start criticising others' political beliefs as 'sentimental nonsense' is similar to when they start referring to their own as 'common sense'. It suggests they are losing the argument.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Hutton 45

Marc Mulholland has much of interest to say about Hutton.

How the Sun reported the dossier

Given the mess the BBC is in it's worth seeing how a respectable newspaper reported the dossier (the first, whiter-than-white one, albeit wrong)

"Brits 45 mins from doom",

"British servicemen and tourists in Cyprus could be annihilated by germ warfare missiles launched by Iraq, it was revealed yesterday.

"They could thud into the Mediterranean island within 45 MINUTES of tyrant Saddam Hussein ordering an attack. And they could spread death and destruction through warheads carrying anthrax, mustard gas, sarin or ricin. The terrifying prospect was raised in Downing Street's dossier on Saddam's arsenal ..."

BBC staff

BBC staff are to place a privately funded advert in tomorrow's Times to express concern about Greg Dyke's dismissal and in support of the independence of the BBC.

I would sup with the devil...

The Economist says,

"The Tories, after their disgraceful opportunism this week (on tuition fees and just about everything else), look no more impressive than they did under the wretched Iain Duncan Smith",

nevertheless The Economist is not particularly on the ball these days and it seems pretty ridiculous to charge Michael Howard with opportunism over the Hutton Report (as I did a few days ago) given it had nothing to do with him.

I say this merely as an introduction to announcing that after this week's relevations, the new policy of this site is that any PM would be better than Tony Blair. Preferably that means a different Labour PM, but after this week's events we must reconcile ourselves with the fact that he will, if he wants, lead Labour into the next election.

Thus we are left with Charles Kennedy and Michael Howard. I don't know much about the former, but thanks to Oliver Kamm's wide-ranging and helpful articles on their policies and personalities I now do, and I like what I see. Nevertheless we have to face facts that the Kennedy is not going to be PM after the next election. Thus that leaves Michael Howard, a man whose record on truthfulness makes Blair's look good, whose handling of most of his ministerial posts has been terrible, personal beliefs, one of which is listed above, are nonsensical and whose short reign as leader of the Tory party has been pathetic. He also leads a party whose views I find abhorrent, whose MPs on the whole are obscene and immoral, and who would without doubt lead this county into economic and social disaster.

However they still aren't Tony Blair. Thus with a heavy heart I have decided to contribute further to their electoral fighting fund. Vote Tory!

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Social Trends

A new edition of the UK statistical bible, Social Trends, is out. Here's some facts I gleaned from it.

There are 1.4m more females than males.

Christchurch at 29% and Newnam at 8% have the highest and lowest proportion of the population over 65.

English and Welsh 8 yr olds have the best reading test scores in the G8.

77% of children with parents in the highest social classification get 5 or more A-C GSCEs compared with 33% in the lowest.

18% of males and 15% of females have a degree.

32% of males work more than 45 hours a week, 9% of females.

39% of all robberies take place in London, with 2/3rd in five police areas

Income taxes and NICs on those on ½ average and average income (i.e. most people) are lower today than they were in 1997 and 1991.

15% of males aged 16-24 were a victim of violent crime in 2001, while only 0.4% of those aged over 70 were. 1 in 16 of those aged 16-24 were found guilty of an indictable offence.

11% of the prison population are black, 84% white, 3% Asian, 2% Chinese or other.

20% of British houses were built before 1919, 20% after 1984. 34% of new houses in 2002 had 4 bedrooms, compared with only 7% in 1970.

74% of the UK is agricultural land, 11% forest, 16% urban.

People aged 10-19 walk the most in Britain, those over 70 the least.

82% of men have a driving licence and only 62% of women.

In Flintshire 77% of people drive to work, in Westminster only 14.4%

Males spend 2.02 hours watching tv, listening to the radio or playing video games, and only 16 minutes reading.

The BBC has 55% of the male radio audience, and 52% of females.

61% of the population went to a cinema once last year, compared with 34% in 1987. 7% went to the opera.

72% of Britons are Christians, 3% are Muslim. 15% have no religion.

Donations

Can one of my cleverer readers tell me if donations to political parties are tax deductible?

From Greg Dyke

It appears he decided to resign last night. This is what he had to say.

"This is the hardest e-mail I’ve ever written.
In a few minutes I’ll be announcing to the outside world that I’m leaving after four years as Director General. I don’t want to go and I’ll miss everyone here hugely.

However the management of the BBC was heavily criticised in the Hutton Report and as the Director General I am responsible for the management so it’s right I take responsibility for what happened.

I accept that the BBC made errors of judgement and I’ve sadly come to the conclusion that it will be hard to draw a line under this whole affair while I am still here. We need closure. We need closure to protect the future of the BBC, not for you or me but for the benefit of everyone out there. It might sound pompous but I believe the BBC really matters.

Throughout this affair my sole aim as Director General of the BBC has been to defend our editorial independence and to act in the public interest. "

Update: BBC staff are now protesting (rightly in my view) at his departure.
Update II: It appears (at least in the deparment my friend works in) that the entire office has walked out.

The power of the blog

After my call for a Conservative chairman of the BBC yesterday now I learn it already has one. The power of the blog, eh? Iain Duncan Smith for Director General?

Nothing can stop him

Howard launches a defence of the BBC, and using his highly-toned forensic skills takes apart the Hutton Report. Brilliant.

Hutton 4

Martin Bell writes a good piece in today's Guardian.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Hutton 3

I've now read much of the Hutton Report, and my view has somewhat changed. I think m'lord has done a great service for the government. It reminds you of the Peat Defence, in this case Hutton seems to believe anything that a member of the government has told him, because they are a member of the government, and as such he believes them implicitly.

It strengthens Blair unbelievably. Hutton didn't address the question of the rationale for the war, or whether there were weapons of mass destruction or whether the intelligence was correct. But Blair is already saying it vindicates him, and I think that is how a lot of people will see it on the wider issues as well as the narrow issue covered by Hutton.

The BBC has done a tremendous job in covering its own funeral, and as Harry says only the BBC could have done this (check out the comments for a laugh by the way - these people probably think the Sun tells us someting important each day). Clearly there will need to be changes, and perhaps the most important will be to appoint a Conservative as chairman, more able to resist absurd criticism from the usual suspects.

As for the others -- Greg Dyke will probably either fight or resign, Andrew Gilligan proves you should never employ Telegraph journalists, Geoff Hoon amazingly continues his one man fight for mediocrity, Michael Howard should apologise to the PM.

Update: Mr Truth Unvarnished (does he know how ridiculous that looks? Probably not) comments. He also thinks my political views are 'virtually part of the [BBC's]charter' which is a typically endearing and obviously wrong. I was opposed to the recent war in Iraq, and like most of the Great British Public found the BBC's coverage pro-war and pro-government.

Update II: If one does accept the report, which given Hutton saw the evidence and we didn't, I guess one has to, presumably it does make Tony Blair out to be whiter than white in all areas of policy. No PM has ever had such a tough investigation into how he runs his government and come out so free of criticism. There seems no good reason to believe the way this policy was managed is any different from any other policy.

Hutton

Gavyn's gone, but will he be the last? Having now read the report in a bit more detail I have to say I find it a bit odd in places, in particularly there's lots of this kind of thing, where Hutton raises the possibility of government wrong doing, but a bit like a doting parent, immediately says he doesn't believe it.

"As the dossier was one to be presented to, and read by, Parliament and the public, and was not an intelligence assessment to be considered only by the Government, I do not consider that it was improper for Mr Scarlett and the JIC to take into account suggestions as to drafting made by 10 Downing Street and to adopt those suggestions if they were consistent with the intelligence available to the JIC. However I consider that the possibility cannot be completely ruled out that the desire of the Prime Minister to have a dossier which, whilst consistent with the available intelligence, was as strong as possible in relation to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's WMD, may have subconsciously influenced Mr Scarlett and the other members of the JIC to make the wording of the dossier somewhat stronger than it would have been if it had been contained in a normal JIC assessment. Although this possibility cannot be completely ruled out, I am satisfied that Mr Scarlett, the other members of the JIC, and the members of the assessment staff engaged in the drafting of the dossier were concerned to ensure that the contents of the dossier were consistent with the intelligence available to the JIC."

Overall though it completely clears Mr Blair, and I expect there will be a lot of apologies from the BBC, Michael Howard and others who have been throwing allegations around.

Update: Greg Dyke has said this in a memo to all BBC staff 'The BBC does accept that certain key allegations reported by Andrew Gilligan on the Today programme on May 29 last year were wrong and we apologise for them. However, we would point out again that at no stage in the last eight months have we accused the Prime Minister of lying and have said this publicly on several occasions.'

Good week for Blair

My (admittedly quick) reading of the Hutton report's conclusions seems to bear the Sun's leak out, that Blair is in the clear. Coupled with the victory in yesterday's tuition fees' vote it has been a good week for the PM.

Assuming the tuition fees' bill now gets passed the Conservatives are in a tricky position. They obviously want to fight the election on tax cuts, or at least the prospect of tax cuts. The electorate however will obviously see the contradiction between this and their higher education policy. I bet the higher education poliicy is gone by the summer.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Can we survive?

I think this is probably the scariest story this year. I hope it's a hoax.

Point. Counterpoint.

Academic Ivor Crewe makes the case for supporting the government tonight. President of the NUS, Mandy Telford, makes the argument against.

New Prime Minister

Given it seems the general view in the press is that it's possible, if unlikely, that we'll be needing a new prime minister this week everything seems a little calm. Most bloggers seem to be ignoring the issue entirely. I think this might be for the same reasons I have, which is I can't think of anything sensible to say (before the obvious wisecrack I mean I can't think of anything sensible to say even on my own definition of what is sensible).

However British Spin has risen to the task (actually he seems to have done it from his bed, but never mind) and says 'nothing to see here, move on'.

Monday, January 26, 2004

A history lesson from 'www.unvarnishedtruth.com'

In noting 'that the list of nations supporting the Second Gulf War is dominated by those whose peoples best understand freedom, because in the twentieth century they split blood, tears and sweat to achieve it, or because they were denied it by decades of Soviet socialism'

Mr Unvarnished Truth adds,

"In the period when Britain and the United States waged ground and air war on Nazis and Communists in Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Chile and Nicaragua, when Poland declined to collaborate with the Nazis and then waged internal war on Soviet Communism, when Romania was executing its socialist tyrant, Germany invaded all her neighbours and attempting genocide and France prostrated herself before the Third Reich but left NATO."

Comment woud be superflous, except to say I'm surprised he hasn't managed to weave distortions such as Franco's crushing of the communists, or the Italians' brave fight against the Nazis, or Japan's commitment to fighting Stalin into this unique reading of history.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Tory policy on Higher Education

The more one knows about the Tory policy on higher education, the less one likes. I originally thought it was a good policy, but that was because I have happy memories of spending very little on a good higher education and was keen for others to have the same opportunity. I hadn't actually twigged that the policy involved less opportunities and less money, ie. a classic Conservative policy.

Martin Wolf puts it best in today's FT:

"The Conservatives are proposing that some 250,000 qualified young people will be rationed out of universities a decade from now. To make up for the revenue lost when they eliminate even the present fee, another 100,000 places would need to be cut. Yet the underfunding of universities would still be unremedied. These proposals are contemptible."

The policy of this website on higher education remains as it has, by and large, been for the last couple of years. I'm in favour of introducing variable fees as long as they are also levied on current graduates for each year that they studied. This should raise much-needed funds, and concentrate minds on the issue.

Tories on course for landlisde

A YouGov poll in today's Daily Telegraph puts the Tories on 40%, 5% ahead of Labour, with the Liberal Democrats on 19%. Obviously all the usual caveats to polls, and particularly YouGov polls need to be applied -- mainly that their data set shows nothing like this result and it's achieved by statistical manipulation.

Nevertheless it shows what a strong performance the Tories can put in when the PM is rumoured to have only 24hrs to save his leadership, and shows that Blair really should do the decent thing and resign. When you've lost your only political asset, electoral success, what else is there left?

ps The poll, despite being headline news in the print edition of the Telegraph, is nowhere to be seen on the home page of their website. Indeed it's far easier to find this 30th birthday collection of Kate Moss photographs, which I link to merely in protest at the Telegraph's priorities.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Biased BBC III

The BBC is so biased it's even biased against itself!

Ken Clarke

was sat next to Michael Howard at PMQs. Can a Howard 'I've always wanted to join the euro' policy u-turn be far behind?

Conservative Correctness

An excellent post by Harry Hatchet on Conservative Correctness, the practice by which our friends on the Right attempt to smear and denigrate the views of those who don't follow their ultra-reactionary stance.

In the if-it-wasn't-so-serious-it-would-be-amusing category has been the (no doubt genuinely held belief) of the right in this country that they are peddlers of truth and common sense, which perhaps reaches it height on blogs.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The roaring 1990s

Entertaining discussion of the 1990s economic boom in the New York Review of Books. One thing that particularly caught my attention, and stands as a good corrective to those who have an overly simplistic view of the relationship between shareholders and their companies, was this paragraph:

"Indeed, the ability of corporate managers to hide financial information about their companies from those who own the companies—the shareholders—is a truly bizarre situation for which there is little justification. Corporations keep multiple sets of accounts—one set for published financial accounts, a second and unpublished set of books for tax purposes, and in many cases a third set of books for the managers themselves. In essence, corporations get to choose the yardstick by which they measure the profits that they publish. Under current law they have no obligation to reveal tax returns, and stockholders have no right to obtain them. One important reform that would illuminate the true state of corporate finances would be to require corporations to publish their tax returns. This would allow investors to assess profits by a standard yardstick."

Does anyone know why corporations (in the US at least) have no obligation to reveal their tax returns to their owners?

It also contains this great quote from 'Dow 36,000', made in 1999,

"The stock market is a money machine: Put dollars in at one end, get those dollars back and more at the other end.... The Dow should rise to 36,000 immediately, but to be realistic, we believe the rise will take some time, perhaps three to five years [Reviewers' addition - i.e., 2002 to 2004]."

Den Beste on World War II

"The nations of the Iberian peninsula remained neutral, deciding that the war was a fun time they'd rather read about in the newspapers"

Blair, Labour, the Tories and the Telegraph

Two interesting stories in today's Guardian.

First, 48% of voters believe the PM lied to parliament about the leaking of David Kelly's name, and nearly two-thirds believe he should resign if the Hutton report confirms this. Yet, 53% (up from 47% in November) believe the war was justified, and Labour retain 39% of the vote compared with the Tories' 35% (even after all the fixing to give the Tories a higher share and Labour a lower share).

Second, the new owners of the Daily Telegraph have said that they won't automatically support the Tory party, and in particular it won't function as the house organ of the Tory party.

Friday, January 16, 2004

A new standard of proof

I've noticed recently that the old norms of proof and evidence are breaking down and instead increasingly often we have the 'good bloke' argument. Today we have Greg Rusedski's coach saying '"Of all the men and women on the circuit, Greg would be the last person I would suspect of doing anything like that intentionally". Well that's the matter settled in my book.

This defence is of course known in legal circles as the 'Peat' defence, after the most famous use, that of Sir Michael Peat, whose foremost reason for not believing a story about the Prince of Wales was 'First of all, of course, I'm basing it on the fact that the Prince of Wales has told me it's untrue and I believe him implicitly'. From that moment on so did I.

The things MPs say!

I'll give a prize if you can identify which two MPs are responsible for these quotes (both are still MPs)

"I spent some time with women...I actually had sexual intercourse with some of them"

"At least if I'd been fucking somebody I would have been having some fun"

Update: I realise (given you can't find it on google) that this is a little hard. So a few more details -- they are from opposite ends of the political spectrum, and both have been in the news quite a bit over the past 18 months.

The things Tories say!

Reading the excellent Matthew Parris book 'Read my lips: the things politicians wish they hadn't said' one is reminded of this rather appropiate quote for our times:

"In exceptional cases it is necessary to say something that is untrue to the House of Commons. The House of Commons understands that and has always accepted that"

William Waldegrave

(For my younger readers William Waldegrave was a Tory minister in the late 1980s - early 1990s who to all intents and purposes is indistinguishable from Oliver Letwin).

Moderate Muslims: a new service

Many columnists in newspapers, blogs and other media often becry the lack of response from 'moderate Muslims' condemning their less moderate brethen say something puportedly controversial.

Some brave souls have pointed out that the reason most Muslims don't do this is because to do would be 'monumentally weird' and ' that the vast majority of Muslims presumably and correctly suspect that when you're dealing with the kind of person who starts pointing at things you didn't do and demands that you sign their statement condemning whoever did them, then nothing you say is ever going to be good enough for them'.

However this doesn't seem to be good enough for most people, who continue to shout and demand moderate Muslims speak out. Hence my plan for a new service - Moderate Muslims' Immoderate Muslim Notification Service (MMIMNS). For a fee of £100 a year I will email 'moderate' Muslims any interviews, speeches, actions or events that 'immoderate' Muslims have done, so that 'moderate' Muslims can, to keep everyone happy, quickly condemn them and then get on with their lives. For £250 a year I'll do a 'premium' service, which will save 'moderate' Muslims even the bother of condemning their 'immoderate' cousins by condemning the acts on their behalf. For £500 a year I will just condemn everything, every day (ok...Peter Cuthbertson already does this one for free) on their behalf to ensure nothing slips through.

If it is a success I will spread the net to Christians who fail to codemn Iain Paisley's latest outbursts.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

OH.MY.GOD

...
...

[I'm blogless]

Enemy

A quick thought. If France is an enemy of the United States, does that mean those who believe that would welcome a terrorist attack on the country?

Terror, policing and extremism

I heartily recommend the first 3/4 of this article on the policing of terror and extremist groups (warning it's very long ). I'm not not recommending the other 1/4 I just haven't read it yet.

Yes!

I've filed my tax return. And they owe me lots of money. If anyone is still trying then google 'tax central' which is a handy website that does it (basically) all for you.

The sanctity of life

My defending of Peter Cuthbertson the other day increasingly seems like a moment of madness. James Graham rather exposes Cuthbertson's wish for a genocide of burglars by quoting this Cuthie post:

"commonsensical 'Tony Martin' law that would permit home-owners to use any means at their disposal to defend themselves against intruders who broke into their homes"

As James says, 'any means' means 'any means'.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Can you help me solve this problem?

So says Michael Howard. And it's not medical help he requires, but YOUR information about waste.

No-one would call his writing style elegant, or give an award to Central Office's DTP expert, but this new crusade is another brilliant idea which is sure to turn around the 9% deficit in the polls.

Sadly you can't email examples of waste but I have three Conservative party membership cards and letters, two of which will be in the post tonight.

BiasedABC

I'm pleased to be able to report that it's not just in this country seemingly sane people can find bias in the least biased of stories merely because they have misread them. It happens in America too (from Den Beste)

"And even the good news in the first sentence isn't reported quite straight.

'The Pentagon says the reduction in individual attacks against Americans is dramatic — down by 50 percent since the capture of Saddam Hussein'.

See, it isn't that the number of attacks is down, it's that the Pentagon claims that the number of attacks is down. One can almost see the exchange of knowing looks between the reporter and her non-stupid readers: We all know that the Pentagon is probably lying about this, right? Wink-wink, nudge-nudge?"

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

He'll need a new haircut...

This headline is perhaps a little misleading.

We can shoot who we want

Aside from the absurdity of it all, (I don't remember them complaining about the Board of Deputies of British Jews' legal manouevres at the time as an infringement of free speech) there's something a little odd in the usual suspects getting hyper-steamed up over Tom Paulin's comments (as a way of distracting from the standard bearer of the unvarnished truth, Kilroy-Silk) made a few years back about wishing to shoot illegal Israeli settlers.

For these are the very same usual suspects who believe you should have the right to shoot a burglar dead for illegally entering your property or illegally stealing an apple from your fruitbowl.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Torture

This story has been around for a bit but this (via Brad De Long's website) provides a chilling round-up of the US security and immigration servicescommitment to human rights.

It also, insofar that the policies and mentality of this Administration make such events more likely, seems a pretty good answer to Oliver Kamm's claim on December 9th that 'there is literally no reason any longer that a consistent liberal would wish to see President Bush defeated next year'.


Our conservative elite

Nearly three-quarters of the Great British Public want the Elgin marbles to be given to Greece, according to an opinion poll. Will our conservative Elite listen? Probably not.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Michael Howard

Watching Michael Howard attack Tony Blair over the truthfulness or not of what Blair told the House of Commons must warm any Tory's heart.

It's particular pleasurable given in Howard we have a leader who has no worries that his own record in these matters is anything other than 100% .

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

The things the Daily Mail (and its readers) say...

The problem with my much-acclaimed occasional series about the Daily Mail is that I've already noted that I only read the Mail when I am at the gym, so you can work out that I haven't been to the gym since early December.

Anyway I'm back, it's back and as Mail's go it's so-so.

As usual there's lots of stories where the only answer is almost certainly 'no' (the classic a few year's back was 'Did Jesus visit England') such as an article about declining sperm count where the Mail asks 'As sperm counts plummet, is this proof our reliance on gender-bending chemcials will ultimately lead to Man's extinction'.

Most astonishing is the cartoon on p.15, which basically attempts to make fun of pedophilia. It has in bed naked a presumably-teenage girl with her old, ugly male neighbour in an attempt to pretend to be Britney for a few hours (caption: 'Isn't that kind Daddy? Mr Arbuthonot from next door offered to marry me for a few hours so I could feel just like Britney'). Not a paper of family values, whatever it says.

Finally the readers' letters - usually the icing on the cake -- disappoint. Only in 'Out of the Mouths of Babes' do we discern a worrying new trend - it appears children are responding to parental discipline urging tolerance of others by saying 'we didn't have to put up with Saddam Hussein'. Is that the legacy of the Iraq war -- the breakdown in the British family? Oh men can't give birth to pebbles indeed.

More polls

The Times rather overspins its latest poll as a victory for Michael Howard at the expense of the Liberal Democrats, with the parties on 40%, 35%, and 18%. It also says it shows the Tories have broken out of their 30-32% range of the last thousand years (or whatever).

Comparing it with the previous month (36, 33%) it seems that Labour are taking more of the Lib Dems votes. Only if you look at the first poll taken after Howard's election, or the polls taken in IDS last few week's, when Labour were on 36%, the Tories on 30-31% and the Lib Dems on 25% is it split equally.

Looking back over the first half of the year of the polls done by Populus the Tories were often on 34% (there is one clear rogue poll where they are on 29%), with Labour just a few points ahead. If anything this is Tony Blair's triumph more than Michael Howard's (unless you wish to argue that the fear of Howard winning is so great Labour supporters are returning to the fold after an anti-war dalliance with the Lib Dems).

Monday, January 05, 2004

Enemies

I don't know how seriously to take Irwin Stelzer, the Sunday-Times ever-optimistic US economics commentator (and I think advisor to Rupert Murdoch) but his latest column is a corker.

Aside from implicitly arguing that economic analysts can predict variables as long as they're set by supply and demand ('Nor can we confidently predict the course of oil prices, since these are not set by the forces of supply and demand but by a cartel '), a view not supported by say the forex market, Stelzer makes a remarkable comment about US foreign relations.

He says, in the context of George W Bush's handling of the economy, that he was 'simultaneously fighting a rearguard action against France and other enemies of America at the United Nations'.

So there we have it, a (non-loopy) US right wing commentator now believes that France, and we have to assume Germany and Russia are enemies of the United States. Obviously we've been here with France, but given he must mean Germany this is a bit of a shocker.

It also is very worrying for any British patriot. The current government's policies is essentially to do what the US wants and hope everything will be ok. Any future government led by Michael Howard (notwithstanding his belief to stand up to external powers, however mighty) is likely to be more pro-US. This is not a position dissimilar to Germany's before the current Iraq crisis. And so one assumes that if at any time our interests diverge, and the UK opposes US action in the mild way that Germany has done, we will run the risk of being labelled enemies of the US.

I guess that explains the current government's policy but I'm not sure it's a good long-term basis for our country's future.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Labour soaring away

It hasn't received much publicity that I have seen but there was a MORI opinion poll taken a week before Christmas which put Labour on 40%, 4% up from the previous month and 9% ahead of Michael Howard's Tories. Much of the interviews were done after Saddam Hussein's capture.

What's really remarkable is this is of those certain to vote. If you look at the replies of all respondents expressing an interest in voting the figures are 43% Labour, 28% Conservative. Despite what you may read on many blogs this is not a Conservative country.

Tories and tuition fees

As predicted on this site many times it looks as if the Tories are going to abandon their pledge to remove or not introduce tuition fees. Time for another flip-flop from the party's cheerleaders, just a few months after they suddenly discovered a love for free at delivery higher education.

Their Hatred of small people is not new

Michael Howard's belief that 'the people should be big' is so effective in portraying core Conservative values that is now the sub-heading of this blog. But this dismissal of small people is nothing new, but merely an interesting evolution of Conservative Party thought over the past 50 years. Churchilll's (a big man) 1945 manifesto stridently read,

"It will be a definite point in our policy to make certain that the problems of the small man receive special attention"

John Bercow's future must be in doubt.

Friday, January 02, 2004

Howard's beliefs...

are seriously weird.

What does 'I believe that Britain should defend her freedom at any time, against all comers, however mighty ' mean? Is it a -- welcome -- realisation on the part of the part that we are over reliant on the US?

'I believe that the people should be big. That the state should be small ' is just strange, while 'I believe it is natural for men and women to want health, wealth and happiness for their families and themselves' is pretty bleeding obvious.

'I believe the British people are only happy when they are free ' is meaningless. Read the lot.

How many readers?

So as the new year starts I thought I would try to work out how popular UK blogging is. Now I don't really care about 'what I did today' blogs (though I like them), so I have been discussing with various bloggers how many readers they think 'UK political blogs' get a day. Now first there is clearly (at least) three definitional problems. First, what are 'political blogs'? I don't think it's a problem of whether a blog is political or not, I think, like camels, I know one when I see one. More difficult is that every so often I come across brilliant researched, beautifully presented, constantly updated political blogs that I never knew existed. Second what is a 'daily reader'? I use some blogs a lot for their links to other blogs, often even just the ones at the side not in a particular post. I also check, for various reasons (including links I can't be bothered to bookmark), my own blog about five times a day. Furthermore the various counting systems are known to be a bit dodgy, there are search engines, mistakes etc. Third, what is 'UK'? For example, samizdata.com seems to take most of its readers from the US. Should they be counted or not?

Hence I have no idea. But to have a guess, and looking at various indicators (such as the very incomplete but incomparably useful http://www.truthlaidbear.com/TrafficRanking.php, and also the Amazon one) that if you add it all up you might get to 15,000 to 20,000 readers a day. However applying the caveats I'd lower that to a UK readership (unique) somewhere around 10,000 a day. But surely that might be a major overstatement given that the people who comment on the blogs I read tend to be the same 20-30 people? So wildly adjusting I might say UK political blogs have about 2,500-5000 readers a day. Is this way out of line with other people's views?

For comparison a UK political magazine, such as the New Statesmen gets around 3,000, the Spectator, in its print edition I think gets (per day) somewhere around 9,000, the Guardian 400,000 and the Telegraph over 900,000. (Of course they charge. so as a comparison this is not particularly good)